There are so many benefits to arriving and exploring your holiday destination via rail. You can start your holiday off early by kicking back in your seat and admiring the scenery, possibly even with a glass of wine in hand, there’s no need to worry about narrow and winding country lanes (which Devon has plenty of!) and unsurprisingly, it’s far better for the environment than driving your gas-guzzling car.  

We’re rather lucky in South Devon to be in a well-connected part of the country. Whilst we don’t necessarily have the same infrastructures as London or the Midlands, we do boast a number of train lines and stations which make getting to the coast or the moors incredibly easy, in fact we have stops where you can step off the train and be by the sea, or stations that look out onto unspoilt countryside.  

Below we’ve mentioned our top ten must-visit destinations in South Devon, and trust us, it was hard to name just ten! We’ve listed them in order that you might come across them if you were travelling from north or east of England on the train, rather than deciding which destination was the best (because who can choose when we have so many wonderful places!). Read on to find out more.  


Tiverton is one of the first Devonshire towns that you might come across if you’re visiting from further North. It sits on the mainline from the likes of Birmingham and Cheltenham before passing into Exeter St Davids station and further onwards to Plymouth

Mid Devon is somewhat of an underrated destination in Devon. Of course, the coast and the moors are most notable landmarks of the county but Mid Devon, and Tiverton in particular, boast some of the most stunning countryside in Devon.  

As well as historic castles and stately homes to explore, it’s also one of the last remaining places to offer horse-drawn barges. Tiverton Canal Co, located on the Grand Western Canal, are a living heritage attraction complete with staff suited and booted to look like they belong in bygone years and beautiful shire horses that pull colourful barges along the canal.  


On the eastern edge of Devon, nestled between the Blackdown Hills AONB and the East Devon ANOB is Honiton, a colourful market town which is said to be the antique capital of Devon! 

Meandering down the hill is the high street which is prominently marked by the historic church and the history of Honiton’s lacemaking, agriculture and aviation industry can be seen throughout the streets.  

This lively market town has a thrice weekly market offering some of the best locally produced goods that Devon has to offer which is perfect for those looking to do some altruist retail therapy.  

Honiton sits on the East Devon Line which continues onto the West of England train line towards Sailsbury and London Waterloo meaning it’s a great destination if you’re travelling to Devon from the South East.  


Nestled in the northern foothills of Dartmoor, Okehampton is made up of a Victorian Arcade, a lively high street and a supposedly haunted castle! 

Okehampton’s location makes it an excellent place for outdoor enthusiasts due to its proximity to the moors and large amount of footpaths, trails and cycling routes leading from the town. Explore forgotten villages, towering tors and majestic waterfalls from Okehampton by venturing into the unadulterated landscape of Dartmoor.  

The town is a short train ride from Exeter, passing through the glorious Mid-Devon countryside. It’s a wonderful little market town with all the amenities you may need; lots of accommodation to rest your head, eateries aplenty to fill your bellies and great attractions nearby to keep the whole family entertained. It even has a large park which is perfect for picnics or tiring your little ones out before heading back to your abode.  


A comparatively small but bustling city to visit in Devon is Exeter. It’s an ancient city dating back to the Roman era and its history can be told through its incredible architecture. It still boasts some remains of a roman wall as well as a stunning gothic cathedral, plus a Norman castle. The medieval era can be discovered through the underground passages and the city centre is littered with Georgian and Victorian buildings.   

Of course, there’s a number of modernised areas in the centre, Princesshay is great for a dash of retail therapy if you love high-street shopping whilst Fore Street is great for supporting independent and local businesses.  

That’s not all though, Exeter Quay is a historic quayside which is now home to a number of excellent eateries and independent businesses with a thriving atmosphere. It sits on the River Exe which is great for paddle boarding and kayaking.   

Exeter has four train stations within the city centre, Exeter Central, Exeter St Davids, Exeter St Thomas and St James Park meaning that it’s very well connected. There are also more stations outside of the city so you don’t necessarily have to stay within the busy centre if you’d like a more relaxing getaway, but you’re still close enough to venture in. You can find out more about our capital city here. 


Last stop on the Avocet Line, Exmouth is located at the mouth of the River Exe and roughly 30-minutes from Exeter meaning that if you decide to base yourself in Exeter for your holiday, you can easily get to the beach in less than an hour. However, if you’re looking for a seaside getaway, there’s lots of hotels, B&B’s, self-catered homes and campsites in Exmouth which are mere minutes from the sea.  

Exmouth is a town that has long been a popular tourist destination. For generations people have enjoyed bathing in the fresh waters, strolling along the promenade and picnicking in the parks. Today it’s still as popular but with the introduction of some fantastic attractions in the recent decades, it’s become a much-loved destination.  

Fascinatingly, Exmouth is one of the gateway towns to the UNESCO World Heritage Jurassic Coast which travels from here to Old Harry Rocks in Dorset, and the only town in Devon’s section of this coastline to have a railway making it a great base to explore the rest of it on foot or by bike. 

There are plenty of great attractions nearby to entertain the whole family; Stuart Line Cruises offer boat trips around the Exe Estuary and East Devon coastline and World of Country Life is great for animal-mad kiddies. There’s also lots of places to catch evening entertainment with a number of theatres, event venues and bars playing live music and shows.  

Dawlish & Dawlish Warren  

Dawlish has all the makings of a classic seaside getaway. Sandy beaches, amusement arcades and a plethora of eateries make up this lovely town, plus it’s famously known as the home of the black swans, which are native to Australia but were gifted to the town a few decades ago.  

In the summer the town is buzzing with atmosphere, whether it’s children laughing and playing in the rock pools on the beach, families gathered for a picnic on the Lawn or shoppers perusing the local wares.   

The train station here is situated almost quite literally on the beach, meaning you can hop off the train with your bucket and spades in tow and perch yourself down on the golden sand within a matter of seconds.   

The previous stop (or next, depending which direction you’re heading!) is Dawlish Warren with is beautiful Blue Flag beach and 500-acre nature reserve. It’s just a mile and a bit up the road so you could walk to it along the sea wall or coast path and then catch the train back into Dawlish. Dawlish Warren Nature Reserve is home to over 600 species of plant and over 23,000 birds so if you like bird watching it’s the best place to be!  


Birthplace of iconic crime writer Agatha Christie, home to pristine beaches reminiscent of those in the Mediterranean and a vibrant harbour side jam-packed with shops and eateries, Torquay has long been a popular holiday destination.   

During the Victorian era visitors who weren’t able to spend their holidays on the French Riviera would instead come down to Torquay for its warmer climate and picturesque views, and it’s clear to see why!   

Torquay is a fantastic location for a family getaway as it boasts a number of great attractions; a prehistoric cave, a model village, a theatre and so much more. And, for those who like to spend their summers relaxing on the sun kissed sand, there are several long sandy expanses and secluded coves to get your fix of vitamin-sea!   

Torquay has two train stations, the main Torquay station and Torre which is slightly more inland and typically more utilised by locals. Find out more about Torquay here. 


Paignton is Torquay’s English Riviera neighbour and is just one stop away on the train. Perhaps one of the most prominent landmarks of this seaside town is the historic pier which stretches majestically out 240 metres to sea from the promenade.   

Fish and chips are a must when at the beach and luckily Paignton has them in abundance, so you won’t fall short of finding somewhere to grab this divine British delicacy. Dotted in between the chippies and amusements arcades are several souvenir shops to grab those holiday keepsakes.   

Like Torquay, Paignton has a number of beaches. Goodrington and Broadsands are great family-friendly beaches as they’re large enough to have ample room and the waters are clean and safe, whereas Elberry Cove is a stunning shingle inlet with water clear enough to snorkel in.    

Attractions in Paignton range from animal-filled zoos, a theatre and the biggest outdoor waterpark in the UK! The Riviera Line terminates in Paignton but you could catch the Dartmouth Steam Railway from Paignton to Kingswear/Dartmouth for further exploration.   


Ah Totnes, a humble market town bustling with atmosphere and good vibes all-round. At the top of the town is a historic Norman motte and bailey castle and meandering down the high street are an eclectic range of independent businesses such as vintage clothing stores, a record shop, veggie cafes, homeware stores and lots more.   

Totnes hosts a fantastic market on Fridays and Saturdays where the air is thick with the sweet aromas of fresh food and smiling faces are seen all around.   

At the bottom of the town is the picturesque River Dart which offers a number of fantastic walks for avid ramblers or scenic boat trips to Dartmouth. Another town to explore near Totnes is Buckfastleigh on the edge of Dartmoor National Park which can be accessed via South Devon Railway which is a fascinating and unique attraction itself.  


Last but definitely not least, our second city and final destination on this list is Plymouth, also known as Britain’s Ocean City. It’s a port city with a rich maritime heritage where the Mayflower transported the pilgrims from England to America in 1620.   

Plymouth is a vibrant city with plenty to see and do. You can shop and dine in a wide range of places such as the chic shopping centre, Drake Circus and Plymouth Market which is packed with over 140 stalls and eateries. Plus, Royal William Yard which is housed in a historic military suburb and the Barbican with its treasure trove of unique businesses.   

The Barbican is also home to the oldest gin distillery, Plymouth Gin which offers tours and tastings for those of you who enjoy this timeless tipple. Smeaton’s Tower is another landmark which is synonymous with Plymouth, recognisable by its striking red and white pattern on the Hoe.   

Close to Plymouth are some fantastic beaches; Wembury and Bovisand are two of the most notable and Dartmoor National Park is also very accessible. Plymouth has a number of smaller stations dotted around the city so you can hop around as you please. Coast, countryside and city, Plymouth really does have it all. Find out more about Plymouth here.   

That’s it! Our top ten must-visit holiday destinations in South Devon with railway links. Do you have any epic snaps of these towns or their railway lines? Share your photos with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. You can also let us know if you think we’ve missed off one of your favourite towns! 

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